Indeed shows how to make an ‘unlimited leave’ policy work

By Stuart Hodge

As a company specialising in recruitment, it should come as no surprise that Indeed, the world’s number one job website, knows what it takes to be a good employer.

Indeed, which now has over 200mn monthly visitors to its global website, offers all manner of benefits to its 5,000 or so global employees including parental leave for both primary and secondary caregivers, adoption assistance, back-up child care, student loan repayment management, a wellness program and even pet insurance.

The company also ensures that all offices are stocked with healthy snacks and beverages, with remote workers receiving a monthly box of snacks, similar those available onsite. Indeed implements a casual dress code in open offices with convertible desks that offer a sitting or standing option for employees, and there is plenty of comfy seating and spots where employees can go for some quiet time or one-on-one meetings.

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Communication access is also a premium consideration, with Indeed ensuring that video conferencing is available for all employees to connect with the rest of the company’s global workforce.

But despite that myriad of resources and benefits available to help keep employees comfortable and happy, there is still one policy we are yet to mention which seems the most innovative and potentially groundbreaking of them all: Indeed allows all of its employees unlimited leave.

Under what the company calls its ‘Unlimited PTO’ policy, employees can take as much time as they wish – for sickness, personal days or vacation days.  There are no limits. 

A company statement says: “Open PTO empowers current employees, makes for happier workers in the long-term, and also demonstrates to potential talent that the company cares about the health and wellbeing of its employees.

“Beyond salary and benefits, most workers will gravitate towards opportunities that are employee-centric. Compensation consistently ranks as the least significant factor when it comes to considering what makes people happy at work.”

This last statement is backed up by findings in the company’s own Workplace Happiness Index, 2016. 

Indeed considers the unlimited PTO policy to be an unmitigated success, so we caught up with the company's Senior Vice President and Global Head of HR Paul Wolfe to find out more.

“An engaged workforce is critical - if you don’t have an engaged workforce, you are going to be facing constant turnover, low productivity and a lacklustre employer brand,” he says.

An engaged workforce is really the foundation for a successful company and a company’s greatest asset - a happy employee is your best brand ambassador.

“These days it’s rare that you would interact with a candidate who hasn’t researched your company - either formally using tools like Indeed Company Pages, or informally by asking their family, friends and extended network what they think about your company brand. Happy employees will have strong messages to share about why your company is a great place to work.

"Companies who are actively engaged in offering a rewards culture need to make sure they are promoting it in their job descriptions to help bring candidates in, and companies who are struggling with retention should think about ways they can make their environment more attractive to effectively compete for talent.

“Ultimately, the investment it takes to create a supportive work environment is rewarded with happy, high-performing and retained employees."

And unsurprisingly, the policy proved mightily popular with staff.

“It was extremely well received and is very popular with our employees,” Wolfe says. “Part of the reason this is successful is that we are showing we trust our employees to take the amount of time off that makes sense for them and their roles.

“We also encourage people to take time off: managers have conversations with employees who aren’t taking time away, and also take time away themselves to set a good example that rest and recuperation is important. We consider our paid PTO program a success because employees have taken a healthy amount of time off and simultaneously been very productive. In fact, we saw a 28% increase in the number of days taken off by employees after the first full year.”

The unlimited leave policy is not a global first. It remains pretty rare but there are other companies within the technology sector who have done the same or similar – however, the size of Indeed as a company makes its rollout of this kind of policy particularly noteworthy.

Where did the idea come from for Indeed to do this and how does it make sure that employees don’t abuse the privilege?

“We believe that trusted, empowered and rested employees have a better chance of being happier and also performing better,” says Wolfe.

“Our leadership team thought through the pros and cons of implementing an Open PTO program and the benefits were overwhelmingly outweighing any cons. Ultimately, we want to create a great work environment for our employees so they can, in turn, help others find great jobs as well.

“The open paid time off policy was rolled out on a global scale at Indeed, and managers were provided with FAQs and support on monitoring their team's time off. The unlimited vacation policy also reflects Indeed’s core mission of helping employers attract the talent they need, and job seekers find work that they enjoy.

“Our managers are responsible for approving time off - so we don’t really have any issues of abusing the policy. Managers and employees work together on discussing PTO and covering off on responsibilities during time away.”

It seems then like a good idea, well-executed, by a successful company. As well as the higher performance of a highly-motivated and cared-for for workforce, what other positive benefits has Wolfe seen as a byproduct of the policy?

“Indeed is a rapidly growing global company,” he explains, “so like any growing company, we have to make sure we are keeping engagement high as we grow and that we don’t lose our culture and the things that make Indeed a great place to work. 

“Numerous factors go into this: the office environment, the kind of work staff are doing, their manager and team, to name just a few. You have to work on all of these aspects which in concert contribute to an engaged workforce.

“And tenure is certainly a byproduct of motivated employees. We want to keep people that we hire with Indeed as long as we can, and motivation is critical to that.

“We realize it is unlikely we will keep all of our employees for the length of their careers, but while they are at Indeed, we want them to be happy, and if they decide to leave, we want them to look back at their experience with us positively.”


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